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Archive for May, 2008

Yesterday, I mentioned in passing that I was teaching a class in blogging on Saturday here in the library, and someone commented to ask for more information. It turns out that my class and the waiting list are both full. (Dear Heavens!) Obviously, this is a very hot topic.

So, in order to reach a larger audience, I thought that I’d try talking about blogging here…on the blog. I’m not, say, Darren Rowse, but I certainly know a thing or two on the subject. In fact, I’ve just been doing a bit of checking, and it looks like I’ve been blogging since 2001, and professionally since 2006.

Here’s the question for all of you, then. What would you like to know? Would you prefer that I answer questions, or would you like a more structured series of posts? If I don’t know the answer to your question off of the top of my head, I can always find out.

What do you think?

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13 Popular Baby Names

Thursday Thirteen #21
I’m teaching a class on blogging this Saturday, so I had to come up with a topic for this week’s Thursday Thirteen that wouldn’t require quite so much research as usual. Considering that a bunch of my friends seem to be having babies lately, Baby Names seemed just the ticket.

According to the Social Security Administration website the following names were among the 10 most popular for Boys or Girls in 2007.

1. Jacob This name is Hebrew and Biblical in origin. It means “He who supplants,” and according to the baby name book I consulted it has been the number one boy’s name in the USA since 1999. (Still #1 in 2007.)

2. Emily From the Latin this names means “industrious” and from the Teutonic it means “energetic.” The Baby Name Bible lists this as the number one girls’ name since 1996. I personally know three Emilys that are graduating High School this year. (Still #1 in 2007.)

3. Michael From the Hebrew, this name means “who is like God?” Formerly the number one boys’ name in the U.S. for about half a century, it now sits at number two. And seriously, how many Michaels do you know? (At least as recently as 2007.)

4. Isabella A Spanish and Italian version of “Elizabeth,” which means “pledged to God” in Hebrew. My great-aunt’s name is Isabelle, and she was born in 1918, so you can see that all number of versions of this name remain popular throughout time. (This name was number two for girls in 2007.)

5. Ethan From the Hebrew, this name means “strong and firm.” Do that many people like Ethan Hawke or Tom Cruise’s character from Mission Impossible? (This biblical name was number three for boys in 2007.)

6. Emma From the German and meaning “healer of the Universe,” Emma is both the name of one of my friends and my parents’ cat. (Lagging a whole two spaces behind the similar sounding “Emily,” this name sits at the number three spot for female names in 2007.)

7. Joshua A Hebrew name meaning “the Lord is salvation,” Joshua is another of those perennial favorites. I currently know two fellows with this name, one of whom I’m related to. (This name made it to the number four male name on the most popular list in 2007.)

8. Eva This name is a variation of the biblical “Eve” that carries with it the meaning of “life.” I wonder what caused the sudden popularity of this one. Eva Longoria, perhaps? (In 2007, this name reached number four for young ladies.)

9. Daniel From the Hebrew meaning “God is my judge,” Daniel is another of those perennial favorites. Okay. You got me. Not only is this my grandfather’s name, after whom my sister is named, but it is actually on my short list of names for potential children. Come to think of it, it’s also my great-grandfather’s name. I officially declare it a family name, so I can use it no matter how popular it is. (in 2007, Daniel was number five on the popular names list for males.)

10. Madison Carrying with it the meaning “son of the mighty warrior,” this newly popular girl’s name was originally from the English…and for boys. Wasn’t that the name for the mermaid from Splash? In any case, it is soon to be the name of my friend’s new baby. (in 2007, this name reached number five.)

11. Christopher From the Geek and the Latin, Christopher means “one who carries Christ.” A grand total of three different men in my family answer to this name, though they do prefer “Chris.” Did you know that the diminutive for this name during Shakespeare’s time was “Kit”? (In 2007 this was the sixth most popular male name.)

12. Sophia As of 2007, Sophia was number six on the populare female names list. The thing you need to ask yourself is, do you prefer Soph-EEa or Soph-EYEa for the pronounciation. Either way, it’s from the Greek for “Wisdom.”

13. Elizabeth This name, sitting at number ten on the popular female names list in 2007, seems to be the official middle name of my family. Well, for the girls at least. It means “pledged to God” and is ground zero for nicknames. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth I was known a Good Queen Bess?

Sources:
The Baby Name Bible by Pamela Redmond Satran & Linda Rosenkrantz
The Social Security Administration website

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When it comes to film adaptations of books, most of the time the book is far better than the film. It goes without saying, right? A good example of this is the second version of Escape to Witch Mountain, or as I like to call it: The Purple Monstrosity. The book was so much better than that film. It made me wonder if the film-makers had even read the book. (The book was better than the first movie, too, but by a much smaller margin. Also, the film was good. Heaven only knows what Race to Witch Mountain will end up looking like.)

Other times, the book and the movie complement each other quite well, each showing their own strengths, in effect making them “as good as” (or nearly as good as) the book. I like to use The Princess Diaries as my example for this sort of thing. The book and the movie had many of the same elements, but they really end up being more like two different versions of a similar story. (Which really worked for me. I like that kind of story.)

Return from Witch Mountain is a good example of a film that was very faithful to the book, and managed to keep the spirit of the book intact, too. That’s actually a very difficult balance to maintain. Of course, the rarest of all is the film that was better than the book. This brings me to today’s question. I’m curious. How many of you out there have encountered a filmed version of a book that you thought was better than the book itself? I can only think of one example off of the top of my head, and that’s Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Yes, I really didn’t like the book, but I loved the film. (I’m not that big a fan of the mini-series, either.)

What about you?

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Reading Adventures

Thee bookclubs at Centerville and Irvington are on hold for the summer, but I couldn’t leave them without any ideas about what to read this summer. Most of the kids in the book clubs are 4th through 6th graders, but I think Junior High kids might like some of these books, too.

Alanna The First Adventure By Tamora Pierce

Eleven-year-old Alanna, who aspires to be a knight even though she is a girl, disguises herself as a boy to become a royal page, and learning many hard lessons along her path to high adventure.

Among the Hidden By Margret Peterson Haddix

In a future where the Population Police enforce the law limiting a family to only two children, Luke has lived all his twelve years in isolation and fear on his family’s farm, until another “third” convinces him that the government is wrong.

The Borrowers By Mary Norton

Miniature people who live in an old country house by borrowing things from the humans are forced to emigrate from their home under the clock

The Dark is Rising By Susan Cooper

On his eleventh birthday Will Stanton discovers that he is the last of the Old Ones, destined to seek the six magical Signs that will enable the Old Ones to triumph over the evil forces of the Dark

Ella Enchanted By Gail Larson Levine

In this novel based on the story of Cinderella, Ella struggles against the childhood curse that forces her to obey any order given to her



From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler By E. L. Koingsburg

A girl and her younger brother run away from home and take up residence at the Metropolitan Museum where they come across a beautiful and mysterious statue. Determined to discover its maker, they first have to find the statue’s former owner, the reclusive and mischievous Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and then sort through her incredibly mixed-up files

Hatchet By Gary Paulson

After a plane crash, thirteen-year-old Brian spends fifty-four days in the wilderness, learning to survive initially with only the aid of a hatchet given to him by his mother, and learning also to survive his parents’ divorce

Kiki Strike Inside the Shadow City By Kristen Miller

Life becomes more interesting for Ananka Fishbein when, at the age of twelve, she discovers an underground room in the park across from her New York City apartment and meets a mysterious girl called Kiki Strike who claims that she, too, wants to explore the subterranean world

Peter and the Starcatchers By Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

A fast-paced, impossible-to-put-down adventure awaits as the young orphan Peter and his mates are dispatched to an island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They set sail aboard the Never Land, a ship carrying a precious and mysterious trunk in its cargo hold but the journey quickly becomes fraught with excitement and danger

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett

Ten-year-old Mary comes to live in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors and discovers an invalid cousin and the mysteries of a locked garden

Stormbreaker By Anthony Horowitz

After the death of the uncle who had been his guardian, fourteen-year-old Alex Rider is coerced to continue his uncle’s dangerous work for Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6

The Westing Game By Ellen Raskin

The mysterious death of an eccentric millionaire brings together an unlikely assortment of heirs who must uncover the circumstances of his death before they can claim their inheritance

We all love adventure books. What do you think would be fun to read this summer?

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I have owned my copy of The Fire Cat by Esther Averill off and on since sometime in the late 1970s. My Mother subscribed to some sort of “I Can Read” book service, and The Fire Cat was one of the books we received. According to the inner cover, my sister and brother both owned this book at some point, but it eventually made its way back to me. Written for beginner readers, it is the story of a cat named Pickles who must learn to be good if he wishes to do big things someday. His friend Mrs. Goodkind believes in him, but even she knows that he needs to make a change in his behavior if he is to achieve his potential. One day, while chasing another cat up a tree, Pickles gets stuck, and the firemen must come and get him down. Can Pickles prove to the firemen that he can be a good, helpful cat? Will he finally do big things? Well, conveniently, The Fire Cat is not out of print, so why not check out a copy of the book and discover the ending for yourself.

As you may have gathered, I still love The Fire Cat. I rather suspect that this is because the story is told from Pickles’ point of view. It’s just fun to watch this cat’s thought process. My copy of this book has gotten a bit yellowed over time, but the illustrations are still just as I remembered them. They are quite simple, on the whole, and they are mostly in colors ranging from yellow to red with black borders. The author is also the illustrator. This may be why I’ve always thought that the illustrations complement the story. …And I love the image of the cat sliding down the fire pole on the cover. So, to sum up: Simple, easy to read story told from the cat’s point of view. Cute illustrations that complement the story, and a storyline of a naughty cat trying to change his ways.

If you know a beginning reader who is fond of cats, you might give The Fire Cat a try.

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Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin is a period piece that celebrates life in mid-1970s San Francisco through the eyes of the diverse residents of 28 Barbary Lane and people with whom they come in contact. All of the characters are interconnected in a way that is almost soap operatic in its scope. Mrs. Madrigal, the landlady of 28 Barbary Lane, has been spending time with Edgar Halcyon. Mary Ann and Mona, two of the Barbary Lane residents, have Mr. Halcyon for a boss. At one point, Mary Ann has a weekend affair with Mr. Halcyon’s son-in-law, Beauchamp Day. Mouse’s boyfriend also knows Beauchamp. If you look closely at it, I don’t think that anyone is more than three degrees removed from Mrs. Madrigal in the whole story. That’s better than Kevin Bacon can say.

I first read this novel while living and working in Yosemite during the summer of 1995. I borrowed it from the tiny Yosemite Valley library. In some ways the Tales of the City soap opera reminded me of the one surrounding me in our small city of tent cabins. Years later, when I moved to the San Francisco bay area, I was amused to discover that some of the landmarks featured in the story were still around. I drove past the Marina Safeway and was tempted to go inside to see if it was still a “meat market” as well as a grocery store. I pass the infamous “End-up” dance club, site of the infamous Jockey shorts dance contest, every time I am in the city. From a selfish point of view, I should point out that this is the one book series that I discovered and read before my friend who loves edgy books encountered it. For once, I got to feel smug about knowing about something first. Perhaps some of my love of this book arises from that smugness. I wouldn’t be too surprised. But that isn’t the only reason that I like this book. The characters are well developed. They show you their pain and doubts. You end up pulling for them, hoping that everything works out in the end. It’s as though each character is a touchstone for a different kind of person, allowing you to live the story through the eyes of your chosen character, no matter where you are from.

Armistead Maupin’s controversial novel was made into a miniseries in 1993 that featured a stellar cast and was quite faithful to the book. It was fabulous and, like the book, so very much not for children. It is a story full of sex, drugs, and infidelity. It is a story of love, loss, and choosing your own identity. It is the story of a time before AIDS and after the Vietnam War. It is a tale of a much beloved city. Tales of the City.

(Armistead Maupin’s Website)
(Place a hold on the book)

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13 Facts About Sacramento, CA

Thursday Thirteen #20

I’m on vacation this week, so I thought that I’d do a Thursday Thirteen about my good ol’ home town, Sacramento. Researching for this list of facts has made me a bit homesick, but it has also reminded me why I moved to a cooler climate. Have any of you visited California’s capitol city? What do you remember about it?

13 Facts About Sacramento:
1. Sacramento is the capital of the State of California. It wasn’t always that way, though. The previous capitols were – Monterey (1849), Pueblo de San Jose (1849-1851), Vallejo (1852), Sacramento (1852-1853), Vallejo (1853), and Benicia (1853-1854). Sacramento has remained the capitol since 28 February 1854.

2. Sacramento has a fabulous Summer Shakespeare Festival. This version of Shakespeare in the Park has been around since 1986. Each year they put on two Shakespearian plays in William Land Park (across from the Zoo.) It is always worth a trip. And no, I’m not just saying this because I went to school with the current Costume Designer. This year’s plays will be Twelfth Night and The Tempest. I can’t wait.

3. Sacramento has many nicknames. It is variously known as “the Camellia Capital of the World,” “River City,” and “City of Trees. Locals tend to call it Sac or Sactown. My favorite nickname has always been “The Big Tomato.”

4. Sacramento is where the Sacramento River and the American River meet. Where two rivers meet is called a “convergence.” In this case, the convergence happens at Discovery Park. The official listings claim that Discovery Park is open year round from sunrise to sunset, but I am here to tell you that this is not quite accurate, as this park spends part of every year under water.

5. Did you know? Sacramento is part of Sacramento County, but West Sacramento is part of Yolo County. (Sacramento is the Sacramento County seat, while Woodland is the County seat for Yolo County.)

6. The Sacramento Zoo has been around since 1927. These days the zoo even has a blog. I took a couple of classes at the zoo back in the 1980s, though I didn’t get to spend the night like my friend did. I distinctly remember when they started moving from cages to the modern zoo enclosures. Curious about the “Little Zoo in the Park?” Why not check out their photo gallery.

7. The official hottest temperature on record for Sacramento is 115. The record was set back in June of 1961. That may be the official story, but I remember it being hotter than that. Perhaps it is just because they take their reading at someplace like the Capitol Building instead of the backyard of my childhood home.

8. Sacramento is home to six sports franchises: The Sacramento Kings (Basketball – NBA), Sacramento Monarchs (Basketball – WNBA), Sacramento Capitals (Tennis – WTT), The Rivercats (Baseball – Triple-A), California Storm (Soccer – WPSL), and The Sacramento Sirens (Football – IWFL).
These teams break down like this: 2 Men’s (Basketball, Baseball), 3 Women’s (Basketball, Soccer, Football) , 1 Mixed (Tennis). Edge: Women. 🙂

9. Every year on Memorial Day weekend, Sacramento hosts the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee. This year will be the 35th Jubilee on May 23-26. Sadly, I don’t see the Hot Frogs Jumpin’ Band on the schedule this year. But if you like any variety of Jazz, from Mainstream to Big Band, you’ll certainly enjoy this festival.

10. The coldest temperature on record for Sacramento is 18. I believe that. The record was set in December of 1990. That was the winter that all of the exposed pipes froze and burst. After that, suddenly all of the exposed piped were wrapped ever after. (1990 was quite the year of temperature extremes. The record for August heat was set at 109, April’s heat record became 93, and June’s record low was set at 41 all in that year.)

11. Sacramento is ground zero for Museums. The Crocker Art Museum, which is “the longest continuously operating art museum in the West,” and The California State Indian Museum are just two of them. In fact, there are so many museums in the area, there is a Sacramento Museum Guide Website.

12. Old Sacramento (or Old Sac as the locals call it) is a bit like a museum all on its own. It houses the California State Railroad Museum (which actually has a running train for you to ride if you like) and seemingly endless shops. If you want to get one of those old time-y photos taken, Old Sac is the place for you. (For the record, my Senior Ball was in Old Sac.)

13. It snows in Sacramento about once every ten years. This isn’t a scientific measure, just what I remember. One year there was enough snow in our front yard to make a sort of slushy snowman. We kept a bit of said slushman in the freezer for years afterwards.

Sources:
* America the Beautiful (Database)
* California State Capitol Museum Website
* The Crocker Art Museum Website
* Discovery Park Website
* My Brain
* The Old Sacramento Website
* Sacramento County’s Official Website
* Sacramento Jazz Jubilee Website
* Sacramento River Official Website
* Sacramento Shakespeare Festival Website
* Sacramento Sports Commission
* The Sacramento Zoo Website
* Western Regional Climate Center Website

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